Publications by authors named "Sailaja Vedantam"

39 Publications

Discovery and fine-mapping of height loci via high-density imputation of GWASs in individuals of African ancestry.

Am J Hum Genet 2021 04 12;108(4):564-582. Epub 2021 Mar 12.

The Charles R. Bronfman Institute for Personalized Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029, USA.

Although many loci have been associated with height in European ancestry populations, very few have been identified in African ancestry individuals. Furthermore, many of the known loci have yet to be generalized to and fine-mapped within a large-scale African ancestry sample. We performed sex-combined and sex-stratified meta-analyses in up to 52,764 individuals with height and genome-wide genotyping data from the African Ancestry Anthropometry Genetics Consortium (AAAGC). We additionally combined our African ancestry meta-analysis results with published European genome-wide association study (GWAS) data. In the African ancestry analyses, we identified three novel loci (SLC4A3, NCOA2, ECD/FAM149B1) in sex-combined results and two loci (CRB1, KLF6) in women only. In the African plus European sex-combined GWAS, we identified an additional three novel loci (RCCD1, G6PC3, CEP95) which were equally driven by AAAGC and European results. Among 39 genome-wide significant signals at known loci, conditioning index SNPs from European studies identified 20 secondary signals. Two of the 20 new secondary signals and none of the 8 novel loci had minor allele frequencies (MAF) < 5%. Of 802 known European height signals, 643 displayed directionally consistent associations with height, of which 205 were nominally significant (p < 0.05) in the African ancestry sex-combined sample. Furthermore, 148 of 241 loci contained ≤20 variants in the credible sets that jointly account for 99% of the posterior probability of driving the associations. In summary, trans-ethnic meta-analyses revealed novel signals and further improved fine-mapping of putative causal variants in loci shared between African and European ancestry populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.02.011DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8059339PMC
April 2021

A Genome-Wide Pharmacogenetic Study of Growth Hormone Responsiveness.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2020 10;105(10)

Division of Endocrinology, Boston Children's Hospital, and Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

Context: Individual patients vary in their response to growth hormone (GH). No large-scale genome-wide studies have looked for genetic predictors of GH responsiveness.

Objective: To identify genetic variants associated with GH responsiveness.

Design: Genome-wide association study (GWAS).

Setting: Cohorts from multiple academic centers and a clinical trial.

Patients: A total of 614 individuals from 5 short stature cohorts receiving GH: 297 with idiopathic short stature, 276 with isolated GH deficiency, and 65 born small for gestational age.

Intervention: Association of more than 2 million variants was tested.

Main Outcome Measures: Primary analysis: individual single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) association with first-year change in height standard deviation scores. Secondary analyses: SNP associations in clinical subgroups adjusted for clinical variables; association of polygenic score calculated from 697 genome-wide significant height SNPs with GH responsiveness.

Results: No common variant associations reached genome-wide significance in the primary analysis. The strongest suggestive signals were found near the B4GALT4 and TBCE genes. After meta-analysis including replication data, signals at several loci reached or retained genome-wide significance in secondary analyses, including variants near ST3GAL6. There was no significant association with variants previously reported to be associated with GH response nor with a polygenic predicted height score.

Conclusions: We performed the largest GWAS of GH responsiveness to date. We identified 2 loci with a suggestive effect on GH responsiveness in our primary analysis and several genome-wide significant associations in secondary analyses that require further replication. Our results are consistent with a polygenic component to GH responsiveness, likely distinct from the genetic regulators of adult height.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgaa443DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7446971PMC
October 2020

Protein QTL analysis of IGF-I and its binding proteins provides insights into growth biology.

Hum Mol Genet 2020 08;29(15):2625-2636

Division of Endocrinology, Children's National Hospital, Washington, DC 20010, USA.

The growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system is integral to human growth. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified variants associated with height and located near the genes in this pathway. However, mechanisms underlying these genetic associations are not understood. To investigate the regulation of the genes in this pathway and mechanisms by which regulation could affect growth, we performed GWAS of measured serum protein levels of IGF-I, IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), pregnancy-associated plasma protein A (PAPP-A2), IGF-II and IGFBP-5 in 838 children (3-18 years) from the Cincinnati Genomic Control Cohort. We identified variants associated with protein levels near IGFBP3 and IGFBP5 genes, which contain multiple signals of association with height and other skeletal growth phenotypes. Surprisingly, variants that associate with protein levels at these two loci do not colocalize with height associations, confirmed through conditional analysis. Rather, the IGFBP3 signal (associated with total IGFBP-3 and IGF-II levels) colocalizes with an association with sitting height ratio (SHR); the IGFBP5 signal (associated with IGFBP-5 levels) colocalizes with birth weight. Indeed, height-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms near genes encoding other proteins in this pathway are not associated with serum levels, possibly excluding PAPP-A2. Mendelian randomization supports a stronger causal relationship of measured serum levels with SHR (for IGFBP-3) and birth weight (for IGFBP-5) than with height. In conclusion, we begin to characterize the genetic regulation of serum levels of IGF-related proteins in childhood. Furthermore, our data strongly suggest the existence of growth-regulating mechanisms acting through IGF-related genes in ways that are not reflected in measured serum levels of the corresponding proteins.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddaa103DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7471503PMC
August 2020

Integrating untargeted metabolomics, genetically informed causal inference, and pathway enrichment to define the obesity metabolome.

Int J Obes (Lond) 2020 07 28;44(7):1596-1606. Epub 2020 May 28.

Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Background: Obesity and its associated diseases are major health problems characterized by extensive metabolic disturbances. Understanding the causal connections between these phenotypes and variation in metabolite levels can uncover relevant biology and inform novel intervention strategies. Recent studies have combined metabolite profiling with genetic instrumental variable (IV) analysis (Mendelian randomization) to infer the direction of causality between metabolites and obesity, but often omitted a large portion of untargeted profiling data consisting of unknown, unidentified metabolite signals.

Methods: We expanded upon previous research by identifying body mass index (BMI)-associated metabolites in multiple untargeted metabolomics datasets, and then performing bidirectional IV analysis to classify metabolites based on their inferred causal relationships with BMI. Meta-analysis and pathway analysis of both known and unknown metabolites across datasets were enabled by our recently developed bioinformatics suite, PAIRUP-MS.

Results: We identified ten known metabolites that are more likely to be causes (e.g., alpha-hydroxybutyrate) or effects (e.g., valine) of BMI, or may have more complex bidirectional cause-effect relationships with BMI (e.g., glycine). Importantly, we also identified about five times more unknown than known metabolites in each of these three categories. Pathway analysis incorporating both known and unknown metabolites prioritized 40 enriched (p < 0.05) metabolite sets for the cause versus effect groups, providing further support that these two metabolite groups are linked to obesity via distinct biological mechanisms.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the potential utility of our approach to uncover causal connections with obesity from untargeted metabolomics datasets. Combining genetically informed causal inference with the ability to map unknown metabolites across datasets provides a path to jointly analyze many untargeted datasets with obesity or other phenotypes. This approach, applied to larger datasets with genotype and untargeted metabolite data, should generate sufficient power for robust discovery and replication of causal biological connections between metabolites and various human diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-0603-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7332400PMC
July 2020

Protein-coding variants implicate novel genes related to lipid homeostasis contributing to body-fat distribution.

Nat Genet 2019 03 18;51(3):452-469. Epub 2019 Feb 18.

Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Genetics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

Body-fat distribution is a risk factor for adverse cardiovascular health consequences. We analyzed the association of body-fat distribution, assessed by waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index, with 228,985 predicted coding and splice site variants available on exome arrays in up to 344,369 individuals from five major ancestries (discovery) and 132,177 European-ancestry individuals (validation). We identified 15 common (minor allele frequency, MAF ≥5%) and nine low-frequency or rare (MAF <5%) coding novel variants. Pathway/gene set enrichment analyses identified lipid particle, adiponectin, abnormal white adipose tissue physiology and bone development and morphology as important contributors to fat distribution, while cross-trait associations highlight cardiometabolic traits. In functional follow-up analyses, specifically in Drosophila RNAi-knockdowns, we observed a significant increase in the total body triglyceride levels for two genes (DNAH10 and PLXND1). We implicate novel genes in fat distribution, stressing the importance of interrogating low-frequency and protein-coding variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-018-0334-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560635PMC
March 2019

Publisher Correction: Protein-altering variants associated with body mass index implicate pathways that control energy intake and expenditure in obesity.

Nat Genet 2018 05;50(5):766-767

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

In the version of this article originally published, one of the two authors with the name Wei Zhao was omitted from the author list and the affiliations for both authors were assigned to the single Wei Zhao in the author list. In addition, the ORCID for Wei Zhao (Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA) was incorrectly assigned to author Wei Zhou. The errors have been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-018-0082-3DOI Listing
May 2018

Genetic Evidence That Carbohydrate-Stimulated Insulin Secretion Leads to Obesity.

Clin Chem 2018 01;64(1):192-200

Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA;

Background: A fundamental precept of the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity is that insulin secretion drives weight gain. However, fasting hyperinsulinemia can also be driven by obesity-induced insulin resistance. We used genetic variation to isolate and estimate the potentially causal effect of insulin secretion on body weight.

Methods: Genetic instruments of variation of insulin secretion [assessed as insulin concentration 30 min after oral glucose (insulin-30)] were used to estimate the causal relationship between increased insulin secretion and body mass index (BMI), using bidirectional Mendelian randomization analysis of genome-wide association studies. Data sources included summary results from the largest published metaanalyses of predominantly European ancestry for insulin secretion (n = 26037) and BMI (n = 322154), as well as individual-level data from the UK Biobank (n = 138541). Data from the Cardiology and Metabolic Patient Cohort study at Massachusetts General Hospital (n = 1675) were used to validate genetic associations with insulin secretion and to test the observational association of insulin secretion and BMI.

Results: Higher genetically determined insulin-30 was strongly associated with higher BMI (β = 0.098, = 2.2 × 10), consistent with a causal role in obesity. Similar positive associations were noted in sensitivity analyses using other genetic variants as instrumental variables. By contrast, higher genetically determined BMI was not associated with insulin-30.

Conclusions: Mendelian randomization analyses provide evidence for a causal relationship of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion on body weight, consistent with the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1373/clinchem.2017.280727DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5937525PMC
January 2018

Protein-altering variants associated with body mass index implicate pathways that control energy intake and expenditure in obesity.

Nat Genet 2018 01 22;50(1):26-41. Epub 2017 Dec 22.

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified >250 loci for body mass index (BMI), implicating pathways related to neuronal biology. Most GWAS loci represent clusters of common, noncoding variants from which pinpointing causal genes remains challenging. Here we combined data from 718,734 individuals to discover rare and low-frequency (minor allele frequency (MAF) < 5%) coding variants associated with BMI. We identified 14 coding variants in 13 genes, of which 8 variants were in genes (ZBTB7B, ACHE, RAPGEF3, RAB21, ZFHX3, ENTPD6, ZFR2 and ZNF169) newly implicated in human obesity, 2 variants were in genes (MC4R and KSR2) previously observed to be mutated in extreme obesity and 2 variants were in GIPR. The effect sizes of rare variants are ~10 times larger than those of common variants, with the largest effect observed in carriers of an MC4R mutation introducing a stop codon (p.Tyr35Ter, MAF = 0.01%), who weighed ~7 kg more than non-carriers. Pathway analyses based on the variants associated with BMI confirm enrichment of neuronal genes and provide new evidence for adipocyte and energy expenditure biology, widening the potential of genetically supported therapeutic targets in obesity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-017-0011-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5945951PMC
January 2018

Multiancestry association study identifies new asthma risk loci that colocalize with immune-cell enhancer marks.

Nat Genet 2018 01 22;50(1):42-53. Epub 2017 Dec 22.

Hospital Infantil de Mexico Federico Gomez, Mexico City, Mexico.

We examined common variation in asthma risk by conducting a meta-analysis of worldwide asthma genome-wide association studies (23,948 asthma cases, 118,538 controls) of individuals from ethnically diverse populations. We identified five new asthma loci, found two new associations at two known asthma loci, established asthma associations at two loci previously implicated in the comorbidity of asthma plus hay fever, and confirmed nine known loci. Investigation of pleiotropy showed large overlaps in genetic variants with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The enrichment in enhancer marks at asthma risk loci, especially in immune cells, suggested a major role of these loci in the regulation of immunologically related mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-017-0014-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5901974PMC
January 2018

Genome-wide meta-analysis of 241,258 adults accounting for smoking behaviour identifies novel loci for obesity traits.

Nat Commun 2017 04 26;8:14977. Epub 2017 Apr 26.

Centre for Genetic Origins of Health and Disease, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.

Few genome-wide association studies (GWAS) account for environmental exposures, like smoking, potentially impacting the overall trait variance when investigating the genetic contribution to obesity-related traits. Here, we use GWAS data from 51,080 current smokers and 190,178 nonsmokers (87% European descent) to identify loci influencing BMI and central adiposity, measured as waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio both adjusted for BMI. We identify 23 novel genetic loci, and 9 loci with convincing evidence of gene-smoking interaction (GxSMK) on obesity-related traits. We show consistent direction of effect for all identified loci and significance for 18 novel and for 5 interaction loci in an independent study sample. These loci highlight novel biological functions, including response to oxidative stress, addictive behaviour, and regulatory functions emphasizing the importance of accounting for environment in genetic analyses. Our results suggest that tobacco smoking may alter the genetic susceptibility to overall adiposity and body fat distribution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14977DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5414044PMC
April 2017

Discovery and fine-mapping of adiposity loci using high density imputation of genome-wide association studies in individuals of African ancestry: African Ancestry Anthropometry Genetics Consortium.

PLoS Genet 2017 Apr 21;13(4):e1006719. Epub 2017 Apr 21.

Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, United States of America.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified >300 loci associated with measures of adiposity including body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (adjusted for BMI, WHRadjBMI), but few have been identified through screening of the African ancestry genomes. We performed large scale meta-analyses and replications in up to 52,895 individuals for BMI and up to 23,095 individuals for WHRadjBMI from the African Ancestry Anthropometry Genetics Consortium (AAAGC) using 1000 Genomes phase 1 imputed GWAS to improve coverage of both common and low frequency variants in the low linkage disequilibrium African ancestry genomes. In the sex-combined analyses, we identified one novel locus (TCF7L2/HABP2) for WHRadjBMI and eight previously established loci at P < 5×10-8: seven for BMI, and one for WHRadjBMI in African ancestry individuals. An additional novel locus (SPRYD7/DLEU2) was identified for WHRadjBMI when combined with European GWAS. In the sex-stratified analyses, we identified three novel loci for BMI (INTS10/LPL and MLC1 in men, IRX4/IRX2 in women) and four for WHRadjBMI (SSX2IP, CASC8, PDE3B and ZDHHC1/HSD11B2 in women) in individuals of African ancestry or both African and European ancestry. For four of the novel variants, the minor allele frequency was low (<5%). In the trans-ethnic fine mapping of 47 BMI loci and 27 WHRadjBMI loci that were locus-wide significant (P < 0.05 adjusted for effective number of variants per locus) from the African ancestry sex-combined and sex-stratified analyses, 26 BMI loci and 17 WHRadjBMI loci contained ≤ 20 variants in the credible sets that jointly account for 99% posterior probability of driving the associations. The lead variants in 13 of these loci had a high probability of being causal. As compared to our previous HapMap imputed GWAS for BMI and WHRadjBMI including up to 71,412 and 27,350 African ancestry individuals, respectively, our results suggest that 1000 Genomes imputation showed modest improvement in identifying GWAS loci including low frequency variants. Trans-ethnic meta-analyses further improved fine mapping of putative causal variants in loci shared between the African and European ancestry populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1006719DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5419579PMC
April 2017

Rare and low-frequency coding variants alter human adult height.

Nature 2017 02 1;542(7640):186-190. Epub 2017 Feb 1.

Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation, Utrecht, 3501 DB, The Netherlands.

Height is a highly heritable, classic polygenic trait with approximately 700 common associated variants identified through genome-wide association studies so far. Here, we report 83 height-associated coding variants with lower minor-allele frequencies (in the range of 0.1-4.8%) and effects of up to 2 centimetres per allele (such as those in IHH, STC2, AR and CRISPLD2), greater than ten times the average effect of common variants. In functional follow-up studies, rare height-increasing alleles of STC2 (giving an increase of 1-2 centimetres per allele) compromised proteolytic inhibition of PAPP-A and increased cleavage of IGFBP-4 in vitro, resulting in higher bioavailability of insulin-like growth factors. These 83 height-associated variants overlap genes that are mutated in monogenic growth disorders and highlight new biological candidates (such as ADAMTS3, IL11RA and NOX4) and pathways (such as proteoglycan and glycosaminoglycan synthesis) involved in growth. Our results demonstrate that sufficiently large sample sizes can uncover rare and low-frequency variants of moderate-to-large effect associated with polygenic human phenotypes, and that these variants implicate relevant genes and pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature21039DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5302847PMC
February 2017

Population genetic differentiation of height and body mass index across Europe.

Nat Genet 2015 Nov 14;47(11):1357-62. Epub 2015 Sep 14.

Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.

Across-nation differences in the mean values for complex traits are common, but the reasons for these differences are unknown. Here we find that many independent loci contribute to population genetic differences in height and body mass index (BMI) in 9,416 individuals across 14 European countries. Using discovery data on over 250,000 individuals and unbiased effect size estimates from 17,500 sibling pairs, we estimate that 24% (95% credible interval (CI) = 9%, 41%) and 8% (95% CI = 4%, 16%) of the captured additive genetic variance for height and BMI, respectively, reflect population genetic differences. Population genetic divergence differed significantly from that in a null model (height, P < 3.94 × 10(-8); BMI, P < 5.95 × 10(-4)), and we find an among-population genetic correlation for tall and slender individuals (r = -0.80, 95% CI = -0.95, -0.60), consistent with correlated selection for both phenotypes. Observed differences in height among populations reflected the predicted genetic means (r = 0.51; P < 0.001), but environmental differences across Europe masked genetic differentiation for BMI (P < 0.58).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3401DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4984852PMC
November 2015

Directional dominance on stature and cognition in diverse human populations.

Nature 2015 Jul 1;523(7561):459-462. Epub 2015 Jul 1.

Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University of Athens, 70, El. Venizelou Ave, Athens, 17671, Greece.

Homozygosity has long been associated with rare, often devastating, Mendelian disorders, and Darwin was one of the first to recognize that inbreeding reduces evolutionary fitness. However, the effect of the more distant parental relatedness that is common in modern human populations is less well understood. Genomic data now allow us to investigate the effects of homozygosity on traits of public health importance by observing contiguous homozygous segments (runs of homozygosity), which are inferred to be homozygous along their complete length. Given the low levels of genome-wide homozygosity prevalent in most human populations, information is required on very large numbers of people to provide sufficient power. Here we use runs of homozygosity to study 16 health-related quantitative traits in 354,224 individuals from 102 cohorts, and find statistically significant associations between summed runs of homozygosity and four complex traits: height, forced expiratory lung volume in one second, general cognitive ability and educational attainment (P < 1 × 10(-300), 2.1 × 10(-6), 2.5 × 10(-10) and 1.8 × 10(-10), respectively). In each case, increased homozygosity was associated with decreased trait value, equivalent to the offspring of first cousins being 1.2 cm shorter and having 10 months' less education. Similar effect sizes were found across four continental groups and populations with different degrees of genome-wide homozygosity, providing evidence that homozygosity, rather than confounding, directly contributes to phenotypic variance. Contrary to earlier reports in substantially smaller samples, no evidence was seen of an influence of genome-wide homozygosity on blood pressure and low density lipoprotein cholesterol, or ten other cardio-metabolic traits. Since directional dominance is predicted for traits under directional evolutionary selection, this study provides evidence that increased stature and cognitive function have been positively selected in human evolution, whereas many important risk factors for late-onset complex diseases may not have been.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14618DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516141PMC
July 2015

Mendelian randomization study of height and risk of colorectal cancer.

Int J Epidemiol 2015 Apr 20;44(2):662-72. Epub 2015 May 20.

Public Health Sciences Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA, Department of Medicine and Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, Division of Cancer Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, Division of Gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia, Divisions of Endocrinology and Genetics and Center for Basic Translational Obesity Research, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA, Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK, Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, Translation Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark, Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA, CHU Nantes, Service de Génétique Médicale, Nantes, France, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA, USC Norris

Background: For men and women, taller height is associated with increased risk of all cancers combined. For colorectal cancer (CRC), it is unclear whether the differential association of height by sex is real or is due to confounding or bias inherent in observational studies. We performed a Mendelian randomization study to examine the association between height and CRC risk.

Methods: To minimize confounding and bias, we derived a weighted genetic risk score predicting height (using 696 genetic variants associated with height) in 10,226 CRC cases and 10,286 controls. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for associations between height, genetically predicted height and CRC.

Results: Using conventional methods, increased height (per 10-cm increment) was associated with increased CRC risk (OR = 1.08, 95% CI = 1.02-1.15). In sex-specific analyses, height was associated with CRC risk for women (OR = 1.15, 95% CI = 1.05-1.26), but not men (OR = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.92-1.05). Consistent with these results, carrying greater numbers of (weighted) height-increasing alleles (per 1-unit increase) was associated with higher CRC risk for women and men combined (OR = 1.07, 95% CI = 1.01-1.14) and for women (OR = 1.09, 95% CI =  .01-1.19). There was weaker evidence of an association for men (OR = 1.05, 95% CI = 0.96-1.15).

Conclusion: We provide evidence for a causal association between height and CRC for women. The CRC-height association for men remains unclear and warrants further investigation in other large studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyv082DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4481609PMC
April 2015

Genome-wide Analysis of Body Proportion Classifies Height-Associated Variants by Mechanism of Action and Implicates Genes Important for Skeletal Development.

Am J Hum Genet 2015 May 9;96(5):695-708. Epub 2015 Apr 9.

Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA; Divisions of Endocrinology and Genetics and Center for Basic and Translational Obesity Research, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Electronic address:

Human height is a composite measurement, reflecting the sum of leg, spine, and head lengths. Many common variants influence total height, but the effects of these or other variants on the components of height (body proportion) remain largely unknown. We studied sitting height ratio (SHR), the ratio of sitting height to total height, to identify such effects in 3,545 African Americans and 21,590 individuals of European ancestry. We found that SHR is heritable: 26% and 39% of the total variance of SHR can be explained by common variants in European and African Americans, respectively, and global European admixture is negatively correlated with SHR in African Americans (r(2) ≈ 0.03). Six regions reached genome-wide significance (p < 5 × 10(-8)) for association with SHR and overlapped biological candidate genes, including TBX2 and IGFBP3. We found that 130 of 670 height-associated variants are nominally associated (p < 0.05) with SHR, more than expected by chance (p = 5 × 10(-40)). At these 130 loci, the height-increasing alleles are associated with either a decrease (71 loci) or increase (59 loci) in SHR, suggesting that different height loci disproportionally affect either leg length or spine/head length. Pathway analyses via DEPICT revealed that height loci affecting SHR, and especially those affecting leg length, show enrichment of different biological pathways (e.g., bone/cartilage/growth plate pathways) than do loci with no effect on SHR (e.g., embryonic development). These results highlight the value of using a pair of related but orthogonal phenotypes, in this case SHR with height, as a prism to dissect the biology underlying genetic associations in polygenic traits and diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2015.02.018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4570286PMC
May 2015

Genetic studies of body mass index yield new insights for obesity biology.

Nature 2015 Feb;518(7538):197-206

Department of Genetics, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.

Obesity is heritable and predisposes to many diseases. To understand the genetic basis of obesity better, here we conduct a genome-wide association study and Metabochip meta-analysis of body mass index (BMI), a measure commonly used to define obesity and assess adiposity, in up to 339,224 individuals. This analysis identifies 97 BMI-associated loci (P < 5 × 10(-8)), 56 of which are novel. Five loci demonstrate clear evidence of several independent association signals, and many loci have significant effects on other metabolic phenotypes. The 97 loci account for ∼2.7% of BMI variation, and genome-wide estimates suggest that common variation accounts for >20% of BMI variation. Pathway analyses provide strong support for a role of the central nervous system in obesity susceptibility and implicate new genes and pathways, including those related to synaptic function, glutamate signalling, insulin secretion/action, energy metabolism, lipid biology and adipogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14177DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382211PMC
February 2015

New genetic loci link adipose and insulin biology to body fat distribution.

Nature 2015 Feb;518(7538):187-196

Department of Genetics, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.

Body fat distribution is a heritable trait and a well-established predictor of adverse metabolic outcomes, independent of overall adiposity. To increase our understanding of the genetic basis of body fat distribution and its molecular links to cardiometabolic traits, here we conduct genome-wide association meta-analyses of traits related to waist and hip circumferences in up to 224,459 individuals. We identify 49 loci (33 new) associated with waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index (BMI), and an additional 19 loci newly associated with related waist and hip circumference measures (P < 5 × 10(-8)). In total, 20 of the 49 waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for BMI loci show significant sexual dimorphism, 19 of which display a stronger effect in women. The identified loci were enriched for genes expressed in adipose tissue and for putative regulatory elements in adipocytes. Pathway analyses implicated adipogenesis, angiogenesis, transcriptional regulation and insulin resistance as processes affecting fat distribution, providing insight into potential pathophysiological mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14132DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4338562PMC
February 2015

Biological interpretation of genome-wide association studies using predicted gene functions.

Nat Commun 2015 Jan 19;6:5890. Epub 2015 Jan 19.

Department of Genetics, University of Groningen, University Medical Centre Groningen, Groningen 9711, The Netherlands.

The main challenge for gaining biological insights from genetic associations is identifying which genes and pathways explain the associations. Here we present DEPICT, an integrative tool that employs predicted gene functions to systematically prioritize the most likely causal genes at associated loci, highlight enriched pathways and identify tissues/cell types where genes from associated loci are highly expressed. DEPICT is not limited to genes with established functions and prioritizes relevant gene sets for many phenotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6890DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420238PMC
January 2015

Defining the role of common variation in the genomic and biological architecture of adult human height.

Nat Genet 2014 Nov 5;46(11):1173-86. Epub 2014 Oct 5.

Department of Genetic Epidemiology, Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.

Using genome-wide data from 253,288 individuals, we identified 697 variants at genome-wide significance that together explained one-fifth of the heritability for adult height. By testing different numbers of variants in independent studies, we show that the most strongly associated ∼2,000, ∼3,700 and ∼9,500 SNPs explained ∼21%, ∼24% and ∼29% of phenotypic variance. Furthermore, all common variants together captured 60% of heritability. The 697 variants clustered in 423 loci were enriched for genes, pathways and tissue types known to be involved in growth and together implicated genes and pathways not highlighted in earlier efforts, such as signaling by fibroblast growth factors, WNT/β-catenin and chondroitin sulfate-related genes. We identified several genes and pathways not previously connected with human skeletal growth, including mTOR, osteoglycin and binding of hyaluronic acid. Our results indicate a genetic architecture for human height that is characterized by a very large but finite number (thousands) of causal variants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.3097DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4250049PMC
November 2014

Quality control and conduct of genome-wide association meta-analyses.

Nat Protoc 2014 May 24;9(5):1192-212. Epub 2014 Apr 24.

1] The Charles Bronfman Institute for Personalized Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA. [2] The Mindich Child Health and Development Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA. [3] The Genetics of Obesity and Related Metabolic Traits Program, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA. [4].

Rigorous organization and quality control (QC) are necessary to facilitate successful genome-wide association meta-analyses (GWAMAs) of statistics aggregated across multiple genome-wide association studies. This protocol provides guidelines for (i) organizational aspects of GWAMAs, and for (ii) QC at the study file level, the meta-level across studies and the meta-analysis output level. Real-world examples highlight issues experienced and solutions developed by the GIANT Consortium that has conducted meta-analyses including data from 125 studies comprising more than 330,000 individuals. We provide a general protocol for conducting GWAMAs and carrying out QC to minimize errors and to guarantee maximum use of the data. We also include details for the use of a powerful and flexible software package called EasyQC. Precise timings will be greatly influenced by consortium size. For consortia of comparable size to the GIANT Consortium, this protocol takes a minimum of about 10 months to complete.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nprot.2014.071DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4083217PMC
May 2014

Genome-wide trans-ancestry meta-analysis provides insight into the genetic architecture of type 2 diabetes susceptibility.

Nat Genet 2014 Mar 9;46(3):234-44. Epub 2014 Feb 9.

To further understanding of the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) susceptibility, we aggregated published meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies (GWAS), including 26,488 cases and 83,964 controls of European, east Asian, south Asian and Mexican and Mexican American ancestry. We observed a significant excess in the directional consistency of T2D risk alleles across ancestry groups, even at SNPs demonstrating only weak evidence of association. By following up the strongest signals of association from the trans-ethnic meta-analysis in an additional 21,491 cases and 55,647 controls of European ancestry, we identified seven new T2D susceptibility loci. Furthermore, we observed considerable improvements in the fine-mapping resolution of common variant association signals at several T2D susceptibility loci. These observations highlight the benefits of trans-ethnic GWAS for the discovery and characterization of complex trait loci and emphasize an exciting opportunity to extend insight into the genetic architecture and pathogenesis of human diseases across populations of diverse ancestry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.2897DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969612PMC
March 2014

Discovery and refinement of loci associated with lipid levels.

Nat Genet 2013 Nov 6;45(11):1274-1283. Epub 2013 Oct 6.

Center for Statistical Genetics, Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.

Levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol are heritable, modifiable risk factors for coronary artery disease. To identify new loci and refine known loci influencing these lipids, we examined 188,577 individuals using genome-wide and custom genotyping arrays. We identify and annotate 157 loci associated with lipid levels at P < 5 × 10(-8), including 62 loci not previously associated with lipid levels in humans. Using dense genotyping in individuals of European, East Asian, South Asian and African ancestry, we narrow association signals in 12 loci. We find that loci associated with blood lipid levels are often associated with cardiovascular and metabolic traits, including coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, waist-hip ratio and body mass index. Our results demonstrate the value of using genetic data from individuals of diverse ancestry and provide insights into the biological mechanisms regulating blood lipids to guide future genetic, biological and therapeutic research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.2797DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3838666PMC
November 2013

Common variants associated with plasma triglycerides and risk for coronary artery disease.

Nat Genet 2013 Nov 6;45(11):1345-52. Epub 2013 Oct 6.

1] Cardiovascular Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. [2] Center for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. [3] Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. [4] Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Triglycerides are transported in plasma by specific triglyceride-rich lipoproteins; in epidemiological studies, increased triglyceride levels correlate with higher risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). However, it is unclear whether this association reflects causal processes. We used 185 common variants recently mapped for plasma lipids (P < 5 × 10(-8) for each) to examine the role of triglycerides in risk for CAD. First, we highlight loci associated with both low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglyceride levels, and we show that the direction and magnitude of the associations with both traits are factors in determining CAD risk. Second, we consider loci with only a strong association with triglycerides and show that these loci are also associated with CAD. Finally, in a model accounting for effects on LDL-C and/or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels, the strength of a polymorphism's effect on triglyceride levels is correlated with the magnitude of its effect on CAD risk. These results suggest that triglyceride-rich lipoproteins causally influence risk for CAD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.2795DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904346PMC
November 2013

Sex-stratified genome-wide association studies including 270,000 individuals show sexual dimorphism in genetic loci for anthropometric traits.

PLoS Genet 2013 Jun 6;9(6):e1003500. Epub 2013 Jun 6.

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Given the anthropometric differences between men and women and previous evidence of sex-difference in genetic effects, we conducted a genome-wide search for sexually dimorphic associations with height, weight, body mass index, waist circumference, hip circumference, and waist-to-hip-ratio (133,723 individuals) and took forward 348 SNPs into follow-up (additional 137,052 individuals) in a total of 94 studies. Seven loci displayed significant sex-difference (FDR<5%), including four previously established (near GRB14/COBLL1, LYPLAL1/SLC30A10, VEGFA, ADAMTS9) and three novel anthropometric trait loci (near MAP3K1, HSD17B4, PPARG), all of which were genome-wide significant in women (P<5×10(-8)), but not in men. Sex-differences were apparent only for waist phenotypes, not for height, weight, BMI, or hip circumference. Moreover, we found no evidence for genetic effects with opposite directions in men versus women. The PPARG locus is of specific interest due to its role in diabetes genetics and therapy. Our results demonstrate the value of sex-specific GWAS to unravel the sexually dimorphic genetic underpinning of complex traits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1003500DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674993PMC
June 2013

Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies 11 new loci for anthropometric traits and provides insights into genetic architecture.

Nat Genet 2013 May 7;45(5):501-12. Epub 2013 Apr 7.

US Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

Approaches exploiting trait distribution extremes may be used to identify loci associated with common traits, but it is unknown whether these loci are generalizable to the broader population. In a genome-wide search for loci associated with the upper versus the lower 5th percentiles of body mass index, height and waist-to-hip ratio, as well as clinical classes of obesity, including up to 263,407 individuals of European ancestry, we identified 4 new loci (IGFBP4, H6PD, RSRC1 and PPP2R2A) influencing height detected in the distribution tails and 7 new loci (HNF4G, RPTOR, GNAT2, MRPS33P4, ADCY9, HS6ST3 and ZZZ3) for clinical classes of obesity. Further, we find a large overlap in genetic structure and the distribution of variants between traits based on extremes and the general population and little etiological heterogeneity between obesity subgroups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.2606DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3973018PMC
May 2013
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